Some might think I'm morbid, the way I religiously read the obituaries in our local daily newspaper each evening. I learned the hard way that it pays to know what's going on in our rural community.
A decade or more ago, I went to a customer's farm to do some work on his planter. His farmstead was always a showplace, and part of any visit there during warm weather included a nod and a wave to his wife, who always seemed to be working in their large, immaculate garden. As the farmer and I worked on the machine, just to be social and friendly, I commented on the nice spring weather and said, "It won't be long before your wife will be back out in her garden..."
He stopped and turned away from me, took a deep breath, and said, "Not this spring. She got cancer last winter and died six week ago."
So now I not only routinely read the obituaries, I regularly compare notes with other mechanics and our salesmen, just to stay abreast of who died, who got divorced and other potentially sensitive topics. Sometimes knowing how to fix machinery is only part of what a farm mechanic needs to know to serve his customers well.